In Court with Assumpta Buchanan - Solomon Star News

In Court with Assumpta Buchanan

09 May 2018

* MOI rape update, May 22
* Oto likely to enter guilty pleas today
* Police attacker seeks bail

MOI rape update, May 22

PROSECUTION will be updating the court on the status of investigation into a rape and assault offence that occurred at Sikaiana, in the Malaita Outer Islands (MOI) last month, on May 22.

The man, who cannot be named to protect the identity of the alleged rape victim because they are related, faces one count of rape and count of grievous harm.

 The 31 year-old appeared in the Honiara Magistrates’ Court yesterday and was further remanded in custody to May 22.

Public Prosecutor Dalcy Belapitu yesterday appeared for the rape charge, while file of the grievous harm charge is with the Police Prosecution.

Police Prosecutor John Palmer said they are intending to transfer the file containing the grievous harm charge to the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions.

The accused is still without a lawyer.

Principal Magistrate Tearo Beneteti advised the accused to make a request to the Public Solicitor’s Office to assist with his case since the charges against him are serious ones.

She then adjourned the matter to give time for the accused to send a request for a lawyer, for the police prosecution to transfer the file in relation to grievous harm charge to the ODPP and for prosecution to update the court on the status of investigation into this matter.

The accused allegedly raped his 13 year-old niece at his house when his wife was away.

On that same day, he also allegedly assaulted a man which resulted in the man losing a number of his teeth.

Meanwhile in another rape incident at Sikaiana, the accused Fred Lapi appeared in the Honiara Magistrates’ Court yesterday as well.

His matter after being mentioned was further adjourned to May 22 so that he can update the court whether or not he has a lawyer by then.

Ms Beneteti also advised him to fill in a request form and sent it to the Public Solicitor’s Office so that a lawyer can be allocated to him.


Oto likely to enter guilty pleas today


The former government officer accused of corruptly receiving more than $750,000 of public funds through dishonest tender is likely to enter guilty pleas to the allegations against him today.

Former financial controller of the Ministry of Police, National Security and Correctional Services Stephen Jude Oto is facing 11 counts of official corruption.

He earlier denied those charges and the matter has gone through trial commencing, Tuesday last week.

After the completion of two prosecution witness, Oto gave instructions to his lawyer, Amos Ngaingeri of L & L Lawyers which resulted in an adjournment.

The adjournment was sought by Mr Ngaingeri to allow him to consult with his client.

The matter was then brought to the court on Friday last week on which the accused indicated change of pleas.

The matter was again mentioned on Monday and further moved to yesterday for a possible re-arraignment.

Oto however did not take his pleas yesterday and the matter was again adjourned to today by Principal Magistrate Fatima Taeburi.

Oto was the first public officer to have been arrested by Taskforce Janus, a partnership between the Ministry of Police and Ministry of Finance, set up specifically to target fraud within the public service.

At the time of his arrest, Oto was the Financial Controller of the Ministry of Police as well as a member of the ministry’s tender board.

It was alleged that on 26 March 2015, Oto was appointed as a member of the Ministry of Police National Security and Correctional Services Ministerial Tender Board.

A requirement of this appointment was that he familiarised himself with the processes set out in the Solomon Islands Financial Instructions.

It was alleged that between 1 December 2015 and 18 August 2016, Jahman Enterprise, a company Oto allegedly set up and owned, answered calls for tenders and had been awarded business contracts for service to the Ministry of Police, National Security and Correctional Services on 11 different occasions.

A number of these transactions have required Certificate of Registration of Business name from the Company Haus to be submitted together with the tender.

Police alleged Oto, on a number of occasions, supplied a falsified Certificate of Registration of Business name, removing his own name from this certificate and replacing it with the name Edward Laufooa, to conceal his identity.

His business Jahman Enterprise was alleged to have subsequently invoiced the Ministry of Police, National Security and Correctional Services, which had made payments totalling up to $756,087.24 Jahman Enterprises for these services.

Director of Public Prosecutions Ronald Bei Talasasa and Public Prosecutor Freliz Fakarii are conducting the trial.

Assisting them are prosecutors Dalcy Belapitu and Patricia Tabepuda.   



Police attacker seeks bail


A MAN in the police custody, who is accused of assaulting a police officer at a bus stop in Honiara last month, is seeking bail.

Peter Lebia Puamani, who faces one count of assaulting a police officer, is yet to have a lawyer.

Principal Magistrate Tearo Beneteti told Puamani that even though he needs a lawyer, she cannot stop him to apply for bail as it is his constitutional right to do so.

Ms Beneteti told Puamani that she needs some information from him in order to hear his bail application.

She advised him to provide information regarding his surety, where he will reside, and the amount of cash bail he intends to pay for bail, and other information needed for the bail application.

Puamani said he will ask his family who are in court to visit him tomorrow and have that information ready.

Ms Beneteti then adjourns the matter to Tuesday next week, to hear the bail application.

In the course of the adjournment, the accused will be preparing his bail application that will be done orally.

Ms Beneteti also ordered prosecution to visit the accused in custody, hear from the accused, and to make a respond whether or not they objected to the bail application.

Puamani is accused of assaulting the police officer at the bus stop at Mendana Avenue, Point Cruz on the late evening of 6 April 2018.

The Police officer was returning from the QuickTaem 24 hour shop, when he allegedly sighted the accused and another person walking towards the Mendana Avenue bus stop.

The accused was described as being drunk at that time as he was allegedly walking unsteadily and allegedly tried to stop moving vehicles on the road.

Prosecution alleged the police officer intervened when Puamani allegedly slapped and punched a bus conductor who was calling for passengers at the bus stop.

Puamani then allegedly turned to the police officer and tried to punch him but the officer however blocked those punches.

It was further alleged Puamani continued on to kick the police officer until two other off duty officers who walked by came and assisted the police officer.

They manage to take the accused to the Central Police Station.

As they were about to enter the police station, it was alleged the accused allegedly tried to grab hold of a small knife in his bag.

The knife was however allegedly removed by the police officer.

Police Prosecutor John Palmer is appearing for the Crown on this matter.